The social construction of risk as it relates to policy making

Adekola, J. (2016) The social construction of risk as it relates to policy making. Society for Risk Analysis Europe Conference 2016, Bath, UK, 20-22 Jun 2016. (Unpublished)

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This paper draws insights from the analysis of the narratives around smoking and vaping risk to public health and safety in United Kingdom. The aim is to understand the role of ‘hidden’ power’in the legitimization and normalization of risk and uncertainty within a policy context. Several salient mechanisms of power were identified; chief amongst them is ‘scientific knowledge’. Science (and its experts) is largely relied upon by public groups as a conduit through which meaning is constructed, mediated, and provided. However, the often disagreement and division within the scientific community around the nature of available knowledge (evidence and its interpretation) often creates problems around how to balance that with other policy concerns. As a consequence, technical experts have to struggle and compete for legitimacy both in the public and policy domain. The study argues that the extent to which certain scientific understanding (or worldview) of risk comes to dominate the policy arena is contingent upon other social processes. The study develops a conceptual framework of the transitions between scientific knowledge and power as it relates to policy legitimization and normalization of risk to public health and safety. Power imbalance in public communication of risk might be improved if technical debates around risk measures and practices are brought within the wider public debates.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Adekola, Dr Josephine
Authors: Adekola, J.
College/School:University Services > Learning and Teaching Services Division
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